Friday, July 31, 2009

U.S. not happy Iraq terrorist camp being closed!

It is rather ironic that the U.S. comes to the defence of an organisation that is on the State Dept. list of terrorist groups! However, these are anti-Iranian terrorists and as such quite useful as providing information to the U.S. and also no doubt engaging in covert activities within Iran to help destabilise the existing government. The ideological orientation as Marxists or even their former terrorist activities do not seem to bother the U.S. any more than the jihadist ideology of those who fought against the Evil Empire (USSR) in Afghanistan bothered the U.S.

News From - -

US ‘Not Happy’ as Iraq Announces Plans to Close MEK Camp

Posted By Jason Ditz On July 29, 2009

US officials are reportedly “not happy” with the situation unfolding in the MEK’s Camp Ashraf, following yesterday’s deadly raids by Iraqi forces. Today, the Iraqi government says that it plans to close the camp down entirely.

It remains unclear what the closure will mean to the thousands of Iranian exiles which reside in the camp, and which enjoy the status of “protected persons” under the Geneva Convention. The camp was turned over to the Iraqi government’s control in January, and yesterday’s raid killed at least eight and injured over 400 according to the governor of the Diyala Province.

The raid on the camp and the detention of several members of the anti-Iranian militant group has been welcomed by Iranian officials. Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said the move “came late” but was still a welcome chance to clear Iraqi territory of terrorists.

Though the MEK is recognized as a terrorist organization by the US State Department, it has a complex relationship with the US. The Saddam-backed group has supplied the US with considerable information regarding Iran, though there is doubt over whether the information is accurate or simply an attempt to foment a US invasion and regime change.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged both sides to “exercise restraint” in the wake of the clashes, and House Foreign Affairs Committee members released a statement accusing the Iraqi government of not living up to its commitments. Other US officials concede that since they turned the camp over to Iraqi control there is very little they can do about the clashe

Thursday, July 30, 2009

U.S. warned Pakistan on Helmand Spillover into Balochistan

The U.S. seems not to care what happens in Pakistan as long as it creates more violence that may force Pakistan to further internal conflict. The spillover creates even more tension in an already tense area that contains many who wish to separate from Pakistan. The U.S. simply ignores Pakistani complaints and follows whatever policies the U.S. thinks are in its own interest.

- News From - -

US Warned Pakistan on Helmand Spillover

Posted By Jason Ditz On July 29, 2009 @ 6:59 pm
US envoy Richard Holbrooke says that since the US launched its massive offensive in the Helmand River Valley, US officials including top commander in Afghnaistan General Stanley McChrystal have “fairly regularly” consulted with Pakistani officials about what is going on.

The hope is that the coordination will prevent the clash, near the Pakistani border, from spilling into the Balochistan Province, in which Pakistan is already contending with a growing separatist movement.

Since the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan, considerable numbers of Taliban have relocated into the regions on the Pakistani side of the border, destabilizing and plunging the area into open revolt against the US-allied Pakistani government.

Pakistani officials have criticized the Helmand offensive, fearing that it will do to Balochistan what the war has already done to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the North-West Frontier Province. The US has dismissed the concerns, saying the attack was “necessary” and that they were comfortable Pakistan would be able to handle the consequences.

Gates: If Iraqis stop feuding withdrawal may be quicker.

Actually there seems little sign of any rapid removal of troops from Iraq. There is not a peep about the referendum on the SOFA agreement that is supposed to be voted on in August. If the referendum does not pass then it will be interesting to see what happens. The demand might very well be for the troops to be withdrawn immediately. Biden claimed that troops might be withdrawn if sectarian violence increased. troops will be withdrawn if there is more violence or if there is less violence as Gates promises. One can be sure given the size of the huge Baghdad embassy that a U.S. military presence in some form will be ongoing no matter what the recent rhetoric may be. The U.S. has made sure that Iraq has no functioning air force so the U.S. can probably control the skies for some time to come.

News From - -

Gates: US May Speed Pullout if Iraq Leaders Curb Feuds

Posted By Jason Ditz On July 29, 2009 @ 5:49 pm

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said there was “at least some chance” that the US might speed up its withdrawal of troops this year if Iraqi and Kurdish leaders settle their differences. This might mean the US would remove another 3,000 to 4,000 of its 132,000 troops, a level which the Pentagon is currently planning to maintain through early 2010.

The comments were almost the exact opposite of those made by Vice Presdient Joe Biden during his Iraq visit earlier this month, when he suggested the US might speed its pullout if the nation reverted to the sectarian and ethnic violence that has wracked the nation since the 2003 US invasion.

There has been considerable dispute between the Iraqi national government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in recent months, as the largely autonomous region attempts to annex neighboring parts of Iraq.

The national government has attempted to curb the region’s unilateral moves on its oil industry, amid fears that it will eventually attempt to secede from Iraq. The KRG Prime Minister has even warned of the prospect of open warfare between the Iraqi military and the KRG’s Peshmearga forces.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Blackwater renamed Xe Worldwide spreads fear in Peshawar Pakistan

From Monsters and
This is the sort of thing that the media tend to ignore. Blackwater had such a bad reputation that it decided to rebrand itself! However, it would seem that its character has not changed nor probably its cosy relationship with the U.S. government.
This article points out that the company is probably involved in covert operations as well as providing security for another private contractor. Some of the employees were killed and could have been targetted in the recent Pearl hotel bombing. Nice that their employees can be put up in five star hotels!

US Blackwater-Xe mercenaries spreads fear in Pakistani town (Feature)
By Nadeem Sarwar and Aqeel Yousafzai
Jul 27, 2009, 6:22 GMT

Peshawar - Fear is spreading across University Town, an upmarket residential area in Pakistan's north-western city of Peshawar, due to the overt presence of the controversial US private security contractor Blackwater.

Sporting the customary dark glasses and carrying assault rifles, the mercenaries zoom around the neighbourhood in their black-coloured armoured Chevy Suburbans, and shout at motorists when occasionally stranded in a traffic jam.

The residents are mainly concerned about Blackwater's reputation as a ruthless, unbridled private army whose employees face multiple charges of murder, child prostitution and weapons smuggling in Iraq.

'Sometimes, these guys stand in the streets and behave rudely with the passers-by, sometimes they point guns at people without provocation' said Imtiaz Gul, an engineer, whose home is a few hundred metres from the US contractor's base on Chanar Road in University Town.

'Who rules our streets, the Pakistani government or the Americans? They have created a state within the state,' he added.

Repeated complaints to the authorities have been to no avail since, according to residents.

Blackwater provides security to the employees of Creative Associates International Inc (CAII), an American company carrying out multi-million-dollar development projects in the country's Islamic militancy-plagued Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Founded in 1997 by Erik Prince, a former US Navy SEAL officer and a major contributor to Republican Party candidates, Blackwater has hired thousands of former military personnel from Western countries as well as other mercenaries from the Third World.

It emerged as the largest of the US Department of State's private security companies, winning multi-million-dollar contracts globally, but attracted a lot of media attention in September 2007 when its personnel killed 17 civilians in an unprovoked shooting while escorting a convoy of US State Department vehicles to a meeting in Baghdad. .........

The company faces charges of human rights violations, child prostitution and possible supply of weapons to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, an Iraqi group designated by United Nations, European Union and NATO as a terrorist organization. It has been declared persona non grata in Iraq.

To conceal its bad reputation, the shadowy company renamed itself Xe Worldwide in February 2009 and Prince resigned as its chief executive officer the following month.

In Pakistan, the Interior Ministry asked the regional governments of all four provinces to keep an eye on the activities of Blackwater in early 2008, immediately after it was believed to have been hired by CAII, according to a media report.

CAII works locally under the name of FATA Development Programme Government to Community (FDPGC).

......Blackwater has recruited dozens of retired commandos from Pakistan's army and elite police force through its local sub-contractors, said an intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Some Pakistani security officials suggested that besides providing security to the aid workers, Blackwater was carrying out covert operations.

Among these were buying the loyalties of influential tribal elders and tracking the money flowing to al-Qaeda and Taliban through the national and international banks, something which perhaps goes far beyond the mandate of a private security firm.

Taliban and al-Qaeda militants who use the tribal regions to attack civilian and government targets inside Pakistan and NATO-led international forces in Afghanistan are also watching Blackwater's moves.

On June 9, suicide bombers drove an explosive-laden vehicle into Peshawar's sole five-star hotel, the Pearl Continental, after shooting the security guards, and detonated it at the side of the building where some Blackwater guards were staying.

Sixteen people died including four of the security firm's personnel - two Westerners and the same number of locals. Four more guards were injured.

The dead bodies and injured were moved quietly. Neither the Pakistani government nor any foreign official admitted these deaths, apparently at the request of US officials.

'Absolutely no comments,' Qazi Jamil, the senior superintendent of police in Peshawar said abruptly when German Press Agency dpa asked him about the Blackwater deaths.

But a minister in the North-West Frontier Province government, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he knew that some US private guards died but did not know how many and which firm they were from.

'The provincial government was not directly dealing with the issue. It's the federal intelligence agencies that handled it,' said the minister. ..........................

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Malalai Joya: The Big Lie of Afghanistan

Joya has been an outspoken female critic of the Karzai government and the occupation. She was kicked out of parliament for pointing out the obvious fact that some of the parliamentarians were war lords and human rights abusers! She often wears a burqa to avoid being the an assasination target!
As Joya points out the Karzai government is filled with fundamentalist Islamists (and so-called reform Taliban) as well as former warlords. What they all have in common is that they support the NATO US led occupation. However, even Karzai has begun to make noises against the occupiers, especially the missions that kill many civilians. He needs to do this to retain any credibility among the population.

The Big Lie of Afghanistan
By Malalai Joya

July 26, 2009 "The Guardian" -- July 25, 2009 -- In 2005, I was the youngest person elected to the new Afghan parliament. Women like me, running for office, were held up as an example of how the war in Afghanistan had liberated women. But this democracy was a facade, and the so-called liberation a big lie.
On behalf of the long-suffering people of my country, I offer my heartfelt condolences to all in the UK who have lost their loved ones on the soil of Afghanistan. We share the grief of the mothers, fathers, wives, sons and daughters of the fallen. It is my view that these British casualties, like the many thousands of Afghan civilian dead, are victims of the unjust policies that the Nato countries have pursued under the leadership of the US government.

Almost eight years after the Taliban regime was toppled, our hopes for a truly democratic and independent Afghanistan have been betrayed by the continued domination of fundamentalists and by a brutal occupation that ultimately serves only American strategic interests in the region.

You must understand that the government headed by Hamid Karzai is full of warlords and extremists who are brothers in creed of the Taliban. Many of these men committed terrible crimes against the Afghan people during the civil war of the 1990s.

For expressing my views I have been expelled from my seat in parliament, and I have survived numerous assassination attempts. The fact that I was kicked out of office while brutal warlords enjoyed immunity from prosecution for their crimes should tell you all you need to know about the "democracy" backed by Nato troops.

In the constitution it forbids those guilty of war crimes from running for high office. Yet Karzai has named two notorious warlords, Fahim and Khalili, as his running mates for the upcoming presidential election. Under the shadow of warlordism, corruption and occupation, this vote will have no legitimacy, and once again it seems the real choice will be made behind closed doors in the White House. As we say in Afghanistan, "the same donkey with a new saddle".

So far, Obama has pursued the same policy as Bush in Afghanistan. Sending more troops and expanding the war into Pakistan will only add fuel to the fire. Like many other Afghans, I risked my life during the dark years of Taliban rule to teach at underground schools for girls. Today the situation of women is as bad as ever. Victims of abuse and rape find no justice because the judiciary is dominated by fundamentalists. A growing number of women, seeing no way out of the suffering in their lives, have taken to suicide by self-immolation.

This week, US vice-president Joe Biden asserted that "more loss of life [is] inevitable" in Afghanistan, and that the ongoing occupation is in the "national interests" of both the US and the UK.

I have a different message to the people of Britain. I don't believe it is in your interests to see more young people sent off to war, and to have more of your taxpayers' money going to fund an occupation that keeps a gang of corrupt warlords and drug lords in power in Kabul.

What's more, I don't believe it is inevitable that this bloodshed continues forever. Some say that if foreign troops leave Afghanistan will descend into civil war. But what about the civil war and catastrophe of today? The longer this occupation continues, the worse the civil war will be.

The Afghan people want peace, and history teaches that we always reject occupation and foreign domination. We want a helping hand through international solidarity, but we know that values like human rights must be fought for and won by Afghans themselves.

I know there are millions of British people who want to see an end to this conflict as soon as possible. Together we can raise our voice for peace and justice.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Robert Reich on the Recovery

Given that consumers are in no position to resume the breakneck spending pace that fuelled the long economic growth in the earlier bull market the present profit growth in some companies is simply a result of cost savings. Perhaps the stimulus package has helped as well. But as Reich points out unemployment is still rising and those without jobs are not big spenders. Those with jobs are often up to their ears in debt and their first priority will be to pay that off. There is no sign of conditions that would lead to a big increase in spending. Any recover will probably be slow and painful...

The Wall Street rally: Watch your wallets
The profits aren't real. Keep your eye on the real economy, where unemployment and underemployment keep rising

By Robert Reich
Jul. 24, 2009

"Been Down So Long It Seems Like Up To Me," the precocious 1966 novel by the late Richard Farina, defined the late 1960s counterculture. The stock market rally that's pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average back above 9000 for the first time since early January could be given the same title, and it might well come to define the much-wished-for financial recovery.

What's pushing the stock market upward? Mainly, unexpectedly positive second-quarter corporate profits. But those profits aren't being powered by consumers who have suddenly found themselves with a lot more money in their pockets. The profits are coming from dramatic cost-cutting -- including, most notably, payroll cuts. If a firm cuts its costs enough, it can show a profit even if its sales are still in the basement.

The problem here is twofold. First, such profits can't be maintained. There's a limit to how much can be cut without a business eventually disappearing -- becoming, in effect, a balance sheet in space. Secondly, when businesses slash payrolls to show profits, consumers end up with even less money in their pockets to buy the things businesses produce. Even if they hold on to their jobs, they're likely to fear that they won't have the jobs for long, which causes them to retreat even further from the malls.

Most companies that have reported earnings so far have surpassed analyst's estimates, but that only means that earnings have been less bad than analysts had feared. According to the chief investment officer at BNY Mellon Wealth Management, if the companies that haven't yet reported earnings show the same pattern as the companies that have reported so far, overall corporate earnings will have dropped 25 percent over the past year. That may not be as much of a drop as analysts had expected, but it's still awful. Operating income for companies in the S&P 500 that have reported so far has been almost 29 percent lower than last year, more than 80 percent lower than 2007, according to Standard and Poors. Ouch.

"Better-than-expected" is Wall Street's euphemism these days for "we're happier than we thought we'd be." But Wall Street is in the business of cheerleading, even when there's really nothing to cheer about. It wants investors to think positively, on the assumption that positive thinking can be a self-fulfilling prophesy: If investors begin putting more money into the market, then the market will automatically rise, leading more investors to put in more money -- until, that is, the rally ends because nothing has fundamentally changed in the real economy.

Keep your eye on the real economy, where unemployment and underemployment keep rising. It's not as much fun as cheering and investing right now, but it's far safer.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Kygryz Election Fraud

As this article clearly shows when U.S. interests might be threatened by contesting the legitimacy of an election the free press in the west observes almost total silence or a the most the news will be hidden on the back pages of newspapers. As this article notes it is rather ironic that the Kyrgyz incumbent received a whopping 85 per cent of the vote far more than Ahmadinejad and monitors claimed there were many irregularities but this elicits no complaints! As with the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia criticism is restrained because U.S. interests might suffer as a result of criticism. In the case of Kyrgistan the squeaky wheel not only got the increase in larger lease payments for a U.S. base but also was allowed to steal an election it would seem.

Kyrgyz Election Fraud Widespread Say Monitors
July 24, 2009, Matthew Good
At what point does one jump on the bandwagon with regards to rigged elections? Everything on the web went green after the fraudulent Iranian election in June, with many world leaders skeptical at the outcome and outraged at how protesters were being treated by Iranian authorities. Then again, Iran’s a rather easy target being that very few have interests at stake – such as, for example, leased air bases.

I mention this because, unlike the Iranian election in which Ahmadinejad supposedly received 66% of the vote, the presidential election in Kyrgyzstan has seen the incumbent, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, receive 85% of the vote despite the fact that international monitors have claimed there were widespread irregularities. According to the opponents of Mr. Bakiyev, those irregularities include ballot stuffing and the intimidation of monitors. Yet, unlike Iran, wading into Kyrgyz politics isn’t in the best interest of, for example, the United States, being that it just secured an agreement with its government to extend the lease of the Manas Air Base, which, in February, the Kyrgyz Parliament voted to close down. In late June an agreement was reached in which the United States would pay an increased annual fee of $60 million dollars, triple the previous cost, as well as provide various aid incentives.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Majority in U.S. oppose both Iraq and Afghan wars

Popular majorities for or against something do not necessarily translate into policies that conform to majority opinion. There is bi-partisan support for the Afghan war so in the two party system the war can go on without either party feeling that it will be defeated because of popular opposition. There are many who profit from the war as well and the armed forces serves as a means of providing jobs for those who otherwise might swell the ranks of the unemployed.
There will be cutbacks in health care and other social services and state governments will be reduced to asking workers for unpaid work days and paying debts with IOUs but military expenditures will increase and indeed the numbers in the armed forces will probably increase as well. This is from

Poll: Majority in US Oppose Both Wars
Posted By Jason Ditz A new AP-GfK poll released today shows a majority of Americans opposed to the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The numbers also reveal growing concern that the president will be able to meet his goals, particularly in Iraq.
The Iraq War was opposed 63-34, while the slightly more popular Afghan War was opposed 53-44. Both numbers split strongly along party lines, with roughly two thirds of Republican supporting each war. Only 10 percent of Democrats support the Iraq War while only 26 support the Afghan War, which has been the foreign policy centerpiece for the Obama Administration.
Other polls have showed growing opposition among allies for their own nations’ contribution to the Afghan War, and it seems that as the war has become a more prominent part of American foreign policy with the Obama Administration’s escalations that opposition is rubbing off on Americans as well.
The governments of some of those nations, Britain and Germany in particular, have been rock solid in their commitment to continue the war despite popular opposition, and likewise Vice President Joe Biden has insisted that the rising death toll in Afghanistan is “worth” it. The Netherlands however is planning to end its commitment by the end of next year, and other nations are considering non-combat roles as a way to quiet domestic opposition to the war. Germany’s Defense Ministry has sought to stem anti-war sentiment by arguing that its not a war at all.
Though the Obama Administration only yesterday insisted that the Iraq pullout remains “on schedule,” which the current plan having the majority of troops out by August 2010 and all troops out by the end of 2011, the snail’s pace of the pullout so far also appears to be sewing pessimism about the plan’s chances, with the number who believe the President will have even “most” troops out of Iraq in the next four years dropping to only 68 percent, down from 83 percent before his inauguration.

Zelaya attempts again to return to Honduras.

It is rather strange that Zelaya would actually announce where he will cross the border. It seems very unlikely that the military will stand down as Zelaya suggests. More likely he will be arrested if he gets in at all and there may be violent confrontations with supporters.
The article speaks of the OAS taking over negotiations, however the Honduran coup govt. has left the organisation. What is there to negotiate anyway since the coup govt. refuses to countenance the return of Zelaya and that is the key demand of the OAS! It makes no sense except as a stalling mechanism supported by the U.S. to avoid having to do something about the coup. Obama is loathe to actually move strongly against the coup leaders because he will be seen to side with Chavez, Cuba, etc. This is from the BBC.

Honduras leader starts return bid
Ousted President Manuel Zelaya is on his way to the Honduran border in a second attempt to return home after nearly a month in exile, reports say.

He left the Honduran embassy in the Nicaraguan capital Managua for the border city of Esteli, from where he will try a land crossing on Saturday.

He is being accompanied by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro.

The interim government has vowed to arrest him if he sets foot in Honduras, as mediation talks failed.

Mr Zelaya made an attempt to return home on 5 July, but his plane was prevented from landing when the Honduran military blocked the runway.

This time, he said he hoped soldiers at the land border would stand down when they saw him and called on his supporters to meet him.

"I think the guns will be lowered when they see their people and their president," Mr Zelaya was quoted as saying by AP news agency shortly before leaving.

He said earlier that his wife and children would accompany him and that he would "go back unarmed, pacifically, so that Honduras can return to peace and tranquillity".

Mr Zelaya was exiled on 28 June after a crisis erupted over his attempts to hold a vote on changing the constitution.

'Clock ticking'

The ousted leader was attempting a second return after delegations from the two sides failed to reach agreement at talks in Costa Rica mediated by President Oscar Arias.

Mr Arias produced a detailed plan to facilitate Mr Zelaya's return, which include proposals for:

•Mr Zelaya to return to the presidency on Friday and serve out his term which ends in January 2010
•a government of national reconciliation to be formed by 27 July
•an amnesty to be granted covering political crimes committed during this crisis
•a truth commission to be set up to investigate events in the run-up to Mr Zelaya's removal
•presidential elections to be held a month early, on 28 October.
President Arias, a Nobel peace laureate, said this was his third and final attempt to mediate a peaceful solution.

"The clock is ticking fast, and it's ticking against the Honduran people," he said.

"I warn you that this plan is not perfect. Nothing in democracy is perfect."

Delegates of the interim government reiterated they would not reinstate Mr Zelaya as president but said they would present the Arias plan to Congress.

But since it was Congress that approved the ousting of Mr Zelaya, the move may prove to be of limited importance, says the BBC Central America correspondent, Stephen Gibbs.

If no agreement were reached, Mr Arias suggested that the Organisation of American States (OAS) take over the negotiations.

That might put further pressure on the interim government, says our correspondent.

The OAS, along with other international groupings, has been quite clear that Mr Zelaya is the legitimate president, and should be reinstated immediately.

'No return'

The crisis was triggered when Mr Zelaya sought to hold a non-binding public consultation to ask people whether they supported efforts to change the constitution.

Critics interpreted that as an attempt to remove the current one-term limit on serving as president.

The Supreme Court declared his attempt to hold a vote illegal under the Honduran constitution and the military was sent to arrest him. He was flown into exile on 28 June.

Carlos Lopez, foreign minister in the military-backed interim government, told reporters in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, on Wednesday that there was no chance of Mr Zelaya returning as president.

"This hypothesis of a possible return of Mr Zelaya to occupy the presidency is completely ruled out."

Speaking in Managua, Mr Zelaya said: "The coup leaders are totally refusing my reinstatement."

"By refusing to sign, [the talks] have failed."

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Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/07/24 00:56:53 GMT


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Honduran Negotiations finish today (Wednesday)

If the two sides do not agree to the new solution Arias will turn over negotiations to the OAS. It is rather surprising that the U.S. was not able or not willing to put sufficient pressure on the coup administration to force them to sign. Maybe they will at the last moment. Zelaya claims he will return to Honduras agreement or no agreement. If that happens there could be a lot of bloodshed. I doubt that Zelaya will get much support from Clinton.

This is from Bloomberg.

Zelaya, in his interview with Telesur from the Honduran embassy in Managua, said the next step if the mediation efforts fail will be to ask the UN and OAS to help enforce the resolutions they passed unanimously to return him to power and restore constitutional order in Honduras.

He said he plans to meet again with U.S. State Department officials Thomas Shannon and Ian Kelly and Clinton in a bid to bolster support for his return.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Elections coming up in Kurdistan..

There seems little interest in these in the mainstream western press. There is a new reform party that seems to be gaining conisderable momentum but it remains to be seen whether it can make much headway against the two traditional rivals anchored in different tribal groups. The two groups have managed to field candidates jointly and this will make it even more difficult for the many opposition groups to make much headway.' One thing all the parties agree on and that is for the extension of Kurdish control over disputed areas around Kirkuk and Mosul. Most Kurds are thankful for the relative peace and prosperity in Kurdistan over the last years so this may be enough to return the old guard parties.

This is from the Economist.

An election in Iraqi Kurdistan

Change in the air?

Jul 16th 2009 SULAYMANIYAH

A new movement is trying to break an old duopoly

AS IRAQ’S Kurds prepare to vote on July 25th for a regional assembly and a president, the buzzword is Goran, meaning change. It is also the name of a new movement that is trying to defeat—or at least to dent—the two parties that came into their own when the Kurds won self-rule in 1991, after the Americans and their allies chased Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait in the south and then prevented him from beating up the Kurds in the north. The elections promise to be the most hotly contested during the Kurds’ current golden era of autonomy. As Change’s campaign gathers pace, its name and logo, an orange candle on a dark-blue background, is emblazoned on buses, taxis, T-shirts, baseball caps and balloons. The movement is on a roll. Whether this translates into votes in a society where patronage and clan loyalties still largely hold sway is not yet clear.

...... It castigates the corruption and cronyism of the two main parties: the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), long a fief of the Barzani clan in the north and western parts of the region around Dohuk and Erbil; and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), run by the Talabani clan in Sulaymaniyah province to the east and in the disputed lands to the south around Kirkuk.

Change also says the two established parties have done a poor job at defending Kurdish interests in the federal parliament in Baghdad. Kirkuk, the fiercely disputed city and province which the Kurds claim as theirs, is still in administrative limbo; the Arabs who run the national government in partnership with the KDP and PUK refuse to let it go or hold a promised referendum, though the Kurds control most of the area. Change says it agrees with its Kurdish rivals on territorial goals but would be better at achieving them.

........There are 24 lists in all, with 11 seats reserved for minorities such as Turkomans and Christians.

Change’s leader is Nawshirwan Mustafa, aged 65, who for many years played second fiddle in the PUK to Jalal Talabani, now Iraq’s national president. But two years ago Mr Mustafa broke away, saying that a KDP-PUK stranglehold over every aspect of life had bred corruption, cronyism and nepotism to the detriment of ordinary Kurds. A host of senior officials and thousands of PUK rank-and-file have followed Mr Mustafa; many have been expelled for sympathising with him.

Popularly known as Kak Nawshirwan (Kak being a term of respect for an elder brother), Mr Mustafa uses the Wusha Foundation, a media outfit that runs a daily newspaper, a popular website and a satellite TV station, to spread his message. “It’s time for pluralism, accountability and transparency in Kurdistan,” he says. “If we want to achieve our goals in Baghdad, we must sort out our own house first.”

The old two-party establishment has responded by drafting in Barham Salih, a widely respected PUK man who is Iraq’s deputy prime minister, to head its list. If the duopoly survives, he may replace the Kurdish region’s incumbent prime minister, Nechirvan Barzani, a KDP man who is a nephew of the region’s president, Masoud Barzani, the clan’s undisputed leader. Under an agreement between the KDP and PUK, the prime minister’s job was supposed to rotate every two years but turmoil in the PUK meant it failed to produce a candidate, so the younger Barzani has stayed put for four years. A row over the issue could well break out after the election.

No one seems to think that the position of the senior Barzani is under threat as the region’s top man. He heads the most powerful Kurdish clan unchallenged, as his father did before him. In a separate ballot on the same day as the assembly vote, Kurds are likely to re-elect him.

In general, they still appreciate the longest period of peace they have enjoyed for many years, especially compared with the continuing bloodshed farther south. Prosperity has grown. The infrastructure has improved. New oil wells are being sunk. But dissatisfaction with administrative shortcomings—in essence, corruption—has been growing too. If Change gets going, the old establishment may not last for ever.

Copyright © 2009 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Arias talks fail Zelaya to return to Honduras next weekend.

This is from my post to Allvoices. --with additional commentary.

These talks were set up only because of the insistence of the U.S. as a way of defusing the situation but the U.S. did not reckon on the intransigence of the coup leaders. Although Zelaya sounded just as uncompromising it was he who accepted Arias proposals for a government of reconciliation. But the coup will not let Zelaya resume the presidency under any conditions it seems. The coup leaders know that the U.S. is a toothless tiger when it comes to actually moving against a group that it had long supported and with whom it still has strong military ties. While in the short term the coup government will suffer international isolation in the longer term there will be presidential elections held under the auspices of the coup government and then things will return to normal with the elite ruling and the military watchful in the wings.
Zelaya is making plans to return next weekend. There are already organised demonstrations regularly and there will be more next week. Of course unless a few dozen people get shot the mainstream media will not bother covering them because they are not in Iran!

The possibility of increased violence is now much increased and should Zelaya carry out his pledge to return to Nicaragua the likely alternative is to be violence. The only alternative left to the Zelaya supporters it would seem is armed struggle. Probably Nicaragua would support such a struggle and also Venezuela at least. The United States will not. Obama is already in hot water among many for supporting Zelaya. Many in the US support the coup line that the military was simply supporting the constitution and the coup lobbyists are openly working in Washington. Many have good connections to the Democratic party and especially Hilary Clinton.
There are recent articles in PressTV (Iran) and Yahoonews.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Arias had Costa Rican constitution amended so he could seek another term!

Apparently no one see this as any great sin. It is only when it is done by supposed socialists such as Chavez that there is any harm done. Arias is a good guy well liked by the U.S. and a supporter of neo-con economic policies.
This is from my post at Allvoices.
but with some alterations..

It is ironic that the mediator in the Honduran crisis Oscar Arias actually did what Zelaya was accused of plotting to change the country's constitution so as to be able to run again. If he had not been able to change the constitution by changing some members of the supreme court he would not be president now! Where are the press on this one.

This is from Wikipedia.
The Costa Rican constitution had been amended to include a clause which forbade former presidents seeking reelection. Arias challenged this in Sala IV, the Constitutional Court, which initially rejected his application. That ruling came down in September 2000. Arias then used his considerable political connections to alter the Court´s composition and, with a majority of members favorable to his cause, succeeded at the second attempt -- April 2003 -- to have the constitution changed.[3] Arias - to the surprise of no one - announced in 2004 that he intended to run again for president in the February 2006 general elections. .........

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"Bribe"or No, Pfizer May Get Its Way in the Philippines

At least Arroyo is making some attempts to put a cap on drug costs. Some such as the U.S. just seem to let the companies charge whatever the market will bear. As as result, drugs often cost much more in the U.S. than other countries such as Canada. The U.S. public just seems to grin and bear it or some actually travel to Canada to buy drugs.
No doubt there is considerable pressure on Arroyo to make the legislation as weak as possible as this article shows. I noticed when I was in the Philippines that drugs were often more expensive than in Canada. Given the huge differences in income for the average person this would make many medications unaffordable to most Filipinos. The price cap legislation is a step in the right direction.

This is from industry.bnet.

"Bribe" or No, Pfizer May Get Its Way in Philippines
By Jim Edwards July 16th, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines said she will consider the interests of foreign investors and other “satisfactory” proposals before signing a maximum retail price law that would impose price caps on drugs in the archipelago nation.

The news will cheer Pfizer, which attended a controversial meeting with the government there in which the company offered alternatives to price caps. Politicians in the Philippines allege that the offer — of discount cards and posters for the president — a “bribe.” Pfizer denies the offer was a bribe. The Inquirer reported:

Malacañang on Wednesday said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would first take into account keeping foreign investors and ensuring public access to cheaper drugs before ordering a price ceiling for essential medicines.

The Palace was apparently backtracking on its tough position on Tuesday that Ms Arroyo was set to sign the executive order imposing maximum retail prices (MRP) by next week.


There is a July 18 deadline for Arroyo to complete the list of drugs facing price caps and sign the law.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Iraq and Kurdistan struggle for control of Kirkuk and oil fields

There is not much attention being paid to this issue in the Western Press. The US and UN have attempted to get the two sides to agree to a negotiated solution but this seems to have gotten nowhere. The Kurds in particular seem about ready to de facto assert their control of some regions. This could very well lead to armed conflict as the article mentions. Saddam had settlled Arabs in some of the areas and now they face discrimination as the Kurds try to wrest control from the central government. The conflict is exacerbated by the fact that there are huge oil riches involved in the areas under dispute.

This is from AFP. There is also a similar article in the Washington Post.
Iraq-Kurd impasse seen to threaten unrest
By Mehdi Lebouachera (AFP) – 23 hours ago

BAGHDAD — Kurdish demands to expand their autonomous region in northern Iraq to include the Kirkuk oil fields and other districts threaten to trigger armed conflict, diplomats and analysts warn.

Six years after the US-led invasion in which Kurdish rebel groups were key allies, their decades-old claims to historically Kurdish-inhabited areas remain unresolved by the new Iraqi government in which they hold both the presidency and a deputy premiership.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

U.S. Troop levels in Iraq to remain stable until at least 2010.

As this announcement from the Department of Defense shows there will in effect be no net withdrawal of troops from Iraq for the rest of 2009. There are still some casualties each month while in Afghanistan casualties are increasing rapidly. The American people continue to pay a high price for their Imperial adventures but then some people and companies profit.
There is no mention that the force levels might be influenced by any decisions the Iraqis might make and that includes a scheduled referendum on the SOFA to take place soon unless the U.S. manages to convince the Maliki govt. to delay it.

This is from defenselink:

DoD Announces Upcoming Operation Iraqi Freedom Rotation

The Department of Defense announced today additional major units scheduled to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The announcement involves three division headquarters and eight brigade combat teams consisting of approximately 30,000 personnel.

These units will replace redeploying units, with no increase in overall force levels. The deployment window for these units will begin in the fall and continue into early 2010.

This announcement reflects the continued commitment of the United States to the security of the Iraqi people, and provides replacement forces required to maintain the current level of effort in Iraq. Subsequent deployment orders will be issued based on force level decisions made in the future

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Zelaya gives Marchetti one week to quit..

This appears as if it is sheer bravado on Zelaya's part. The Marchetti regime has no intention of quitting. I notice from U.S. media that there is a considerable amount of support for the coup rather than Zelaya because they associate Zelaya with Chavez. For years the U.S. supported military regimes in Latin America. As long as the new more democratic regimes are safely in the hands of the elites there are no problems but once anyone is elected who wants to reform the system the elites get restless and the military intervenes once again having been well trained by the U.S. The negotiations seem simply a stalling tactic. The Marchetti govt. will probably move up the presidential elections so that a new president will be chosen even before negotiations are finished so Zelaya's return will make little sense. Arias is a staunch U.S. ally. I expect that Zelaya was in effect forced into this mediation farce.

Honduras' Manuel Zelaya gives rival week to quit
Accusing the man serving as interim president of trying to sabotage mediation talks, ousted Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya said he'll give him a week to step down.
MANAGUA -- Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya gave his rival, Roberto Micheletti, one week to step down, saying he was prepared to risk bloodshed to recapture the presidency, which he lost on June 28.
Speaking from neighboring Nicaragua, Zelaya accused Micheletti, who is serving as interim president, of trying to sabotage ongoing mediation talks in Costa Rica and using the time to consolidate his power.
He also called on the administration to recognize the resolutions of the Organization of American States and the United Nations that demand Zelaya's return. ''The regime is just trying to buy time so it can keep terrorizing,'' Zelaya said. ``The Honduran people are just another victim.''
Zelaya and Micheletti's negotiating teams are expected to resume talks in Costa Rica on Saturday. But if those talks do not produce results, Zelaya said he would pay ''any cost'' to reclaim the presidency.
''Let me come back -- me with the people and you with your bayonets,'' he said. ``And instead of shooting innocent kids, shoot me.''
The last time Zelaya tried to return to Honduras -- on July 5 -- the army blocked the tarmac of the capital's international airport with trucks, keeping his plane from landing. As protesters tried to scale the chain-link fence around Tegucigalpa's international airport, shots were fired and one teen died..............................
The ultimatum came as Micheletti spent Monday consolidating his power by swearing in the nation's top diplomat and its environmental chief.
.....................In his conference from Nicaragua, Zelaya also called on the government to cease its crackdown on the media and opposition politicians.
On Saturday, authorities detained pro-Zelaya reporters with the Venezuelan network Telesur and held them overnight. The government has also been interrupting the transmission of some news programs. In addition, Zelaya said his negotiation team's mobile phones were cut and their bank accounts frozen.
The Micheletti administration has yet to be officially recognized by a single nation. The newly minted foreign affairs minister, Contreras, said he hoped to change that.
The cabinet changes come as Micheletti has been trying to project a sense of normalcy. The curfew, which has been in effect since June 28, was lifted Sunday night. And the government began running public service announcements encouraging Hondurans to vote in the upcoming Nov. 29 general elections.

U.S. Opposes Insulza's Reelection at OAS.

It seems that the U.S. obviously intervened to give Arias, a free trader and staunch U.S. ally a key role in Honduran negotiations, negotiations that are conveniently going nowhere. Actually right now they are not even taking place! To side with Chavez et al is to offend the U.S. and ensure attempts to have someone else more friendly to U.S. policies as head of the OAS. However, it remains to be seen how much influence U.S. complaints will have. Times are changing!

This is from Santiagotimes.


Monday, 13 July 2009
Criticism Directed At Support Given To Chávez And Cuba National media reported this weekend that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has twice stated to Chile’s government that the U.S. will not support the re-election in 2010 of Chile’s José Miguel Insulza to head the Organization of American States (OAS).

Insulza, a former Chilean Interior Minister, apparently rubbed the U.S. the wrong way following his leadership role in the OAS’s decision to readmit Cuba to the organization. Cuba was removed from the OAS in 1962 [ST, June 5 ].The U.S. wanted stricter regulations to be imposed on Cuba to assure greater democracy in the country. Clinton was reportedly unhappy with Insulza’s personal attempts to get Cuba unconditionally reinstated.Insulza’s position was further undermined by Clinton’s naming Costa Rican President and Nobel Prize winner Óscar Arias as the sole negotiator in the Honduran crisis [ST, July 9 ], ignoring Insulza’s efforts, reported Chile’s conservative media this weekend.Insulza has been criticized by a range of (mostly right of center) U.S. think-tanks for allegedly being too close to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Many of Insulza’s policies within the OAS dovetail with those espoused by Chavez’s Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), say the critics. ALBA is a left of center organization promoting international cooperation between Latin American and Caribbean nations and was initially proposed by Chávez as an alternative to the failed Free Trade Area of the Americas proposed by the U.S. “Insulza has been a loyal disciple of Chávez in the case of Honduras,” said Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Latin America project coordinator for U.S. think tank the Cato Institute. “It is obvious that if Insulza wants to be reelected, he has to be on good terms with Chávez, who with Petrocaribe [an oil alliance between Venezuela and the Caribbean] has about 14 or 15 votes in the OAS. In Washington there is growing concern over the secretary general’s biased actions.” Insulza has also been criticized for not intervening with the same intensity for democracy violations alleged in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia, as he has shown in Honduras.The conservative El Mercurio highlighted a letter recently sent to Insulza by Henry Ramos Allup, leader of the Venezuelan opposition party Democratic Action. It said: “Dear Secretary General of the OAS, don’t act stupidly; we know you know what is happening in Venezuela. You should be ashamed: don’t turn into the tyrant’s [Chávez’s] spokesman.”“Insulza’s inflexible defense of Zelaya and his lethargy with regard to political rights being trodden down in half a dozen other countries have only one thing in common: it is what Chávez wants,” said Roger Noriega, ex U.S. under-secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs during the George W. Bush presidency. Insulza has referred to alleged violations of democratic processes in countries such as Nicaragua and Bolivia as “internal problems,” and has denied being inflexible or a socialist “ideologist” with regard to the crisis in Honduras. “I have received this kind of criticism for all the problems I’ve dealt with in the OAS,” Insulza told El Mercurio last week. “However, I don’t feel my position as secretary general has come under threat, so this has not been my concern.” Insulza was nicknamed “Insulso” (“dull”) and called a “jerk” by Chávez in January 2007, following the former’s decision to ask Venezuela to reinstate cable television network RCTV, whose license was not renewed by the Venezuelan government following accusations of its involvement in a short-lived coup [ST, Jan. 10 2007 ].

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Explosion kills Afghan Police Chief and 3 officers.

Many of the local police are so unpopular that locals support the Taliban. The Taliban just withdraw from an area as long as foreign troops have control or engage in sporadic attacks. It is hardly surprising there is an increasing opposition to the occupation given air and other attacks who have killed a considerable number of non-combatants.

This is from the NYTimes.

July 14, 2009
Explosion Kills Afghan Police Chief and 3 Officers
KABUL, Afghanistan — The police chief of a district south of Kabul that the Americans had sought to make a Taliban-free model of safety and security was killed Monday along with three of his officers in a roadside blast.
The deaths cast a blow to the American effort and suggested that Taliban operatives had re-infiltrated the district, Jalrez, in Wardak Province.
He(Karzai) also addressed the growing concern among Afghans about the foreign troop presence, with the largest increase of American troops since 2001 and a sudden surge in violence. A report published Monday by an independent group of diplomats, the Afghanistan Analysts Network, warned that the Taliban’s appeal is increasing in Afghanistan alongside a “deepening sense of occupation and undercurrents of anti-Westernism.”

Monday, July 13, 2009

Costa Rica eyes fresh Honduran mediation talks.

This allows more time for the coup government to settle into power. Given that the two sides are at complete loggerheads it could be that no solution is ever reached. Negotiations will drag on and the coup government will set new presidential elections as soon as possible. Zelaya is not eligible to run and probably Marchetti would not run either. Once a new president is elected the Honduran government can claim that now an elected president is in power everything is hunky dory. The government will be in control of the electoral process but then the system is designed to ensure that the right sort of people get in anyway. Zelaya was originally one of them but sometimes people turn against their own class as happened in Zelaya' case.
If the negotiations are successful it will probably be for Zelaya to return as president but with limited powers. He will be a lame duck president until the elected president takes power in January. No one involved in the coup will face any punishment.

Costa Rica eyes fresh Honduras mediation talks
By Gustavo Palencia Gustavo Palencia
– TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Mediator Costa Rica said on Monday it may call Honduras' interim government and ousted President Manuel Zelaya's negotiators within 8 days for fresh talks aimed at defusing the country's political crisis.
The talks began last week and stopped after two days, making scant progress. Zelaya insists on his reinstatement and Roberto Micheletti, installed as interim president by Honduras' Congress after the June 28 coup, is adamant that he cannot return to power under any circumstances.
"Unofficially, we've been told that we'll be invited to Costa Rica on Saturday by President Oscar Arias to continue the talks," Micheletti told reporters.
Micheletti made the statement after swearing in his lead negotiator, Carlos Lopez, as new interim foreign minister. Lopez said he would continue to head the caretaker government's delegation at the talks.
In Costa Rica, a spokesman for Arias confirmed the mediator, who is Costa Rica's president and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987, intended to issue a fresh invitation to the two sides.
"The president is thinking of inviting the parties within a period of eight days," the spokesman, Esteban Arrieta, told reporters in San Jose, but he could not give a precise date for the restart of the talks.
No foreign government has recognized Micheletti as president, and the United States and the Organization of American States have called for Zelaya to be restored to office after the coup in the impoverished Central American country.
Time appears to be on the interim government's side, said Mark Ruhl, a Honduras specialist at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.
"The longer this goes on, the better it is for Micheletti. The downside is if the United States decides to squeeze the government financially. But if you were Micheletti, why would you leave?" he told Reuters.
Honduras, which exports bananas, coffee and textiles, has a long history of coups, only returning to democracy in 1980s after 20 years of mainly military rule.
Micheletti on Sunday held out the possibility of an amnesty for Zelaya if he returns home quietly and faces justice.
Outside the public prosecutor's office in Tegucigalpa on Monday, protesters held up banners that read "No amnesty for Mel's government," referring to Zelaya by his nickname.
Micheletti reaffirmed that Zelaya would not be allowed to return to power "under any conditions," arguing he had contravened the constitution by seeking to illegally extend his rule through the lifting of presidential term limits.
Zelaya, now traveling the Americas to shore up his support, ran afoul of his political base and ruling elites in the conservative country by allying himself with Venezuela's leftist president, Hugo Chavez. He took office in 2006 and had been due to leave power next year.
Chavez has called the mediation talks in Costa Rica "dead before they started," and Zelaya has vowed to return to Honduras at any moment.
The Honduras crisis has also drawn in U.S. President Barack Obama, who faces a tricky diplomatic test after vowing a fresh start with Latin America, where Washington has in the past been accused of backing coups and dictatorships that served its interests.
The Obama administration was quick to strongly condemn the Honduras coup as illegal.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Obama administration officals claim they have no legal right to investigate Taliban deaths or Bush refusal to do so.

A video called the Convoy of Death is available.

The video shows that U.S. officials were involved at some stages. They were probably CIA operatives or some special forces operatives. So Americans were involved. The video provides evidence of that.
Obama simply does not want to investigate. Dostum is still an important figure in Afghan politics. This is just avoidance justification on the part of the Obama administration.

No legal rights to investigate Taliban deaths - or Bush admin. refusal to do so, officials say
Jul 11, 2009 06:48 EST
Obama administration officials said Friday they had no grounds to investigate the 2001 deaths of Taliban prisoners of war who human rights groups allege were killed by U.S.-backed forces.

The mass deaths were brought up anew Friday in a report by The New York Times on its Web site. It quoted government and human rights officials accusing the Bush administration of failing to investigate the executions of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of prisoners.
U.S. officials said Friday they did not have legal grounds to investigate the deaths because only foreigners were involved and the alleged killings occurred in a foreign country.
The Times cited U.S. military and CIA ties to Afghan Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, whom human rights groups accuse of ordering the killings. The newspaper said the Defense Department and FBI never fully investigated the incident.
Asked about the report, Marine Corps Col. David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said that since U.S. military forces were not involved in the killings, there is nothing the Defense Department could investigate.
"There is no indication that U.S. military forces were there, or involved, or had any knowledge of this," Lapan said. "So there was not a full investigation conducted because there was no evidence that there was anything from a DoD (Department of Defense) perspective to investigate."
A Justice Department official said the FBI had no jurisdiction to investigate. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Separately, Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller declined to comment.
A spokesman for former President George W. Bush did not have an immediate comment Friday night.
Reacting to the Times' report, human rights group Physicians for Human Rights called for the Justice Department to begin a criminal investigation into whether the Bush administration blocked inquiries into the Taliban deaths.
"For U.S. government officials to claim that there is no legal basis to investigate this well-documented mass atrocity is absurd," said the groups deputy director, Susannah Sirkin.
The allegations date back to November 2001, when as many as 2,000 Taliban prisoners died in transit after surrendering during one of the regime's last stands, according to a State Department report from 2002.
Witnesses have claimed that forces with the U.S.-allied Northern Alliance placed the prisoners in sealed cargo containers over the two-day voyage to Sheberghan Prison, suffocating them and then burying them en masse using bulldozers to move the bodies, according to the State Department report. Some Northern Alliance soldiers have said that some of their troops opened fire on the containers, killing those within.
Dostum, the Northern Alliance general who is accused of overseeing the atrocities, has previously denied the allegations.
A former U.S. ambassador for war crimes issues, Pierre Prosper, told the Times that the Bush administration was reluctant to investigate the deaths, even though Dostum was on the payroll of the CIA and his soldiers worked with U.S. special forces in 2001.
Dostum was suspended from his military post last year on suspicion of threatening a political rival, but Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently rehired him, the Times reported.
Source: AP News

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Philippines to sell a half billion dollars in global bonds..

As the Philippine economy slows down tax revenue has been declining so that the deficit will be larger even a record although still not that bad in relationship to GDP. The government may even issue 500 million more bonds later.

This is from Forbes.

-Philippines to sell $500 million global bond soon.
MANILA, July 10 (Reuters) - The Philippines plans to sell $500 million of dollar or euro bonds soon to plug a record budget deficit and to relieve pressure on domestic markets from rising borrowing needs.
The central bank approved on Friday the government's request to issue as much as $1 billion in global bonds, suggesting more issuance could come later this year.
'I think the idea is just come up with $500 million. It is most likely dollars (bonds),' National Treasurer Roberto Tan told Reuters.
The government raised its total borrowing needs by $1 billion this year after it slashed its revenue target by almost the same amount due to a slowing economy.
Manila also has obtained a guarantee from a Japanese state bank for up to $1 billion in Samurai bonds but Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said on Wednesday a global issue could be a cheaper option unless the bank agrees to reduce a guarantee fee on the planned yen bond offer.
Rosalia de Leon, head of the Department of Finance's International Finance Group, said on Friday Manila is still awaiting word from the bank.
Philippine peso bond yields, which were little changed on Friday, may fall next week following the government's announcement it would likely pick underwriters for the global bond sale soon, traders said. The announcement was made a few minutes before the local bond market closed.
Finance Secretary Margarito Teves had previously said the increase in additional borrowings would be shared between local and foreign debt.

Newt Gingrich urges Iran ''sabotage''

This sort of talk confirms Iran's view of the recent protests and undercuts Obama's attempts to portray the US as neutral. Of course we already know that funds have been allocated to do precisely the sort of things that Newt commends. If any sabotage occurs Iran will know who to blame and Gingrich provides the smoking gun evidence!

This is from aljazeera.

US politician urges Iran 'sabotage'

The former speaker of the US House of Representatives has said that the US should "sabotage" Iran's oil and gas infrastructure as part of its efforts to bring down the government.
In an interview with Al Jazeera's Avi Lewis for the Fault Lines programme, Republican Newt Gingrich said targeting Iran's refinery would spark an economic crisis that would destabilise the government in Tehran.
He said the US should "use covert operations … to create a gasoline-led crisis to try and replace the regime".
"I think we have a vested interest, the world has a vested interest, in a responsible Iranian government, just as we have a vested interest in a responsible North Korean government," he said.

Stalemate but head of UN general assembly says solution is near.

It is hard to see why déScoto is optimistic that there will be a solution when the two sides are still completely at loggerheads. No doubt there will be tremendous pressure on Zelaya to agree to go back with reduced powers and stay as a lame duck powerless president until new elections. Of course there will be no punishment of the coup leaders except that they may have to give up on prosecuthing Zelaya. So far they have been unwilling to do that except for "political" crimes.
Note that Honduras depends upon remittances from Hondurans in the US for 25 per cent of its income.

This is from aljazeera.

Honduras talks hit stalemate
Talks aimed at ending a political crisis in Honduras have failed to reach a resolution, after the two individuals claiming the presidency of the country left the negotiations.
Delegates for Roberto Micheletti, the military-backed interim president, and Manuel Zelaya, the deposed elected president, failed to reach a breakthrough in talks mediated by Oscar Arias, Costa Rica's president.
Micheletti's team of advisers left the Costa Rican capital San Jose on Friday evening and headed back to Honduras, bringing an end to the negotiations for the time being.
The president of the United Nations General Assembly said a solution to the crisis was close despite the apparent failure of the Arias-brokered talks.
"I hear we may be very close to a solution for the restitution of President Zelaya," Miguel d'Escoto said on Friday.
"I feel confident that a solution will be arrived at very soon. By soon I mean very few days. A week is soon, but I believe sooner."
Country facts
Second largest country in Central America Population of 7.2 million Second poorest country in the region Economy forecast to grow less than two per cent this year Relies on money from Hondurans in the US for more than 25 per cent of its gross domestic product Former Spanish colony gained independence in 1821
........The US has suspended military ties with Tegucigalpa in the wake of the crisis and has said that it could cut off about $200m in aid.
The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank have also suspended credit to the country.
Gabriela Nunez, the finance minister in the interim government in Honduras, said on Friday that the suspension of Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank loans would cost the country $200m in 2009.
Zelaya's leftist allies in South America have also made life uncomfortable for Micheletti since the coup.
Venezuela has suspended its oil deliveries to Honduras, while Nicaragua denied Micheletti permission to fly through its airspace for the Costa Rica meeting.
Zelaya was removed from power as he was about to press ahead with a non-binding referendum on constitution change.
Congress and the courts had declared the move to hold the public vote illegal, accusing Zelaya of trying to change the charter to enable him to run for a second term in office.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The cost of Empire: new Pakistan embassy to cost 736 million

While back in the US states such as California are sending out IOU's because they are broke the federal government has lots of money to spend on items such as this. The US is obviously going to stay in Pakistan for some time. There is never a recession in the military-industrial complex!

The entire article can be found at atimes.

Baseless expenditures
By Chalmers Johnson
The United States empire of bases - at US$102 billion a year already the world's costliest military enterprise - just got a good deal more expensive. As a start, on May 27, the State Department announced it will build a new "embassy" in Islamabad, Pakistan, which at $736 million will be the second priciest ever constructed. It will cost only $4 million less, if cost overruns don't occur, than the Vatican-City-sized one the George W Bush administration put up in Baghdad. The State Department was also reportedly planning to buy the five-star Pearl Continental Hotel (complete with pool) in Peshawar, near the border with Afghanistan, to use as a consulate and living quarters for its staff there. Unfortunately for such plans, on June 9, Pakistani militants rammed a truck filled with explosives into the hotel, killing 18 occupants, wounding at least 55, and collapsing one entire wing of the structure. There has been no news since about whether the State Department is still going ahead with the purchase. Whatever the costs turn out to be, they will not be included in the US's already bloated military budget, even though none of these structures is designed to be a true embassy - a place, that is, where local people come for visas and American officials represent the commercial and diplomatic interests of their country. Instead these so-called embassies will actually be walled compounds, akin to medieval fortresses, where American spies, soldiers, intelligence officials, and diplomats try to keep an eye on hostile populations in a region at war. .......

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Role of the International Republican Institute in the Honduran Coup

While this article may have its faults it certainly discusses and brings up issues that are simply ignored or glossed over by mainstream western media for the most part.

This is the same group that was involved in the failed coup that attempted to overthrow Chavez. This article also claims that they were involved in the overthrow of Aristide. NED or the National Endowment for Democracy has become in effect a means by which attempts are made to establish U.S. friendly regimes worldwide. It does openly what the CIA used to do covertly!

Role of the International Republican Institute (IRI) in the Honduran Coup

The International Republican Institute talks of “coup” in Honduras, months before
By Eva Golinger

The International Republican Institute (IRI), considered the international branch of the U.S. Republican Party, and one of the four “core groups” of the congressionally created and funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED), apparently knew of the coup d’etat in Honduras against President Zelaya well in advance. IRI is well known for its role in the April 2002 coup d’etat against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and its funding and strategic advising of the principal organizations involved in the ouster of President Jean Bertrand Aristide of Haiti in 2004. In both cases, IRI funded and/or trained and advised political parties and groups that were implicated in the violent, undemocratic overthrow of democratically elected presidents.

After the 2002 coup d’etat occured in Venezuela, IRI president at the time, George Folsom, sent out a celebratory press release claiming, “The Institute has served as a bridge between the nation’s political parties and all civil society groups to help Venezuelans forge a new democratic future…” Hours later, after the coup failed and the people of Venezuelan rescued their president, who had been kidnapped and imprisoned on a military base, and reinstalled constitutional order, IRI regretted its premature, public applause for the coup. One of its principal funders, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), was furious that IRI had publicly revealed the U.S. government had provided funding and support for the coup leaders. NED President Carl Gershman was so irritated with IRI’s blunder, that he sent out a memo to Folsom, chastising him: “By welcoming [the coup] – indeed, without any apparent reservations – you unnecessarily interjected IRI into the sensitive internal politics o Venezuela”. Gershman would have much prefered that NED and IRI’s role in fomenting and supporting the coup against President Chávez have remained a secret.

IRI, chaired by Senator John McCain, was created in 1983 as part of the National Endowment for Democracy’s mission to “promote democracy around the world”, a mandate from President Ronald Reagan. In reality, one of NED’s founders, Allen Weinstein, put it this way in a 1991 interview with the Washington Post, "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA." IRI’s own history, according to its website ( also explains that its original work was in Latin America, at a time when the Reagan administration was under heavy scrutiny and pressure from the U.S. Congress for funding paramilitary groups, dictatorships and death squads in Central and South America to install U.S.-friendly regimes and supress leftist movements. “Congress responded to President Reagan’s call in 1983 when it created the National Endowment for Democracy to support aspiring democrats worldwide. Four nonprofit, nonpartisan democracy institutes were formed to carry out this work – IRI, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS).”“In its infancy, IRI focused on planting the seeds of democracy in Latin America. Since the end of the Cold War, IRI has broadened its reach to support democracy and freedom around the globe. IRI has conducted programs in more than 100 countries.”

In its initial days, IRI, along with the other coup groups of the NED, funded organizations in Nicaragua to foment the destabilization of the Sandinista government. Journalist Jeremy Bigwood explained part of this role in his article, “No Strings Attached?”, "’When the rhetoric of democracy is put aside, NED is a specialized tool for penetrating civil society in other countries down to the grassroots level’ to achieve U.S. foreign policy goals, writes University of California-Santa Barbara professor William Robinson in his book, A Faustian Bargain. Robinson was in Nicaragua during the late ‘80s and watched NED work with the U.S.-backed Nicaraguan opposition to remove the leftist Sandinistas from power during the 1990 elections.”

The evidence of IRI’s role in the 2002 coup d’etat in Venezuela has been well documented and investigated. Proof of such involvement, which is still ongoing in terms of IRI’s work, funding, strategic advising and training of opposition political parties in Venezuela, is available through documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act posted here: , and also available in my book, The Chávez Code: Cracking U.S. Intervention in Venezuela (Olive Branch Press 2006). None of the claims or evidence regarding IRI’s role in fomenting and supporting the April 2002 in Venezuela and its ongoing support of the Venezuelan opposition has ever been disclaimed by the institution, primarily because all evidence cited comes from IRI and NED’s own internal documentation obtained under FOIA.
Hence, when the recent coup d’etat occured in Honduras, against democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya, there was little doubt of U.S. fingerprints. IRI’s name appeared as a recipient of a $700,000 Latin American Regional Grant in 2008-2009 from NED to promote “good governance” programs in countries including Honduras. An additional grant of $550,000 to work with “think tanks” and “pressure groups” in Honduras to influence political parties was also given by the NED to IRI in 2008-2009, specifically stating, IRI will support initiatives to implement [political] positions into the 2009 campaigns. IRI will place special emphasis on Honduras, which has scheduled presidential and parliamentary elections in November 2009.” That is clear direct intervention in internal politics in Honduras.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) also provides approximately $49 million annually to Honduras, a large part of which is directed towards “democracy promotion” programs. The majority of the recipients of this aid in Honduras, which comes in the form of funding, training, resources, strategic advice, communications counseling, political party strengthening and leadership training, are organizations directly linked to the recent coup d’etat, such as the Consejo Nacional Anticorrupción, the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, the Honduran Private Enterprise Council (COHEP), the Council of University Deans, the Confederation of Honduran Workers (CTH), the National Convergence Forum, the Chamber of Commerce (FEDECAMARA), the Association of Private Media (AMC), the Group Paz y Democracia and the student group Generación X Cambio. These organizations form part of a coalition self-titled “Unión Cívica Democrática de Honduras” (Civil Democratic Union of Honduras) that has publicly backed the coup against President Zelaya.

IRI’s press secretary, Lisa Gates, responded to claims that IRI funded or aided (which also involves non-monetary aid, such as training, advising and providing resources) groups involved in the Honduran coup as “false reports”. However, there are several interesting links between the republican organization and the violent coup d’etat against President Zelaya that do indicate the institute’s involvement, as well as to the above mentioned funding that exceeds $1 million during just this year. In addition to its presence on the ground in Honduras as part of its “good governance” and “political influence” programs, IRI Regional Program Director, Latin America and the Carribean, Alex Sutton, has recently been closely involved with many of the organizations in the region that have backed the Honduran coup. Sutton was a featured speaker at a recent 3-day conference held in Venezuela by the U.S.-funded ultraconservative Venezuelan organization CEDICE (Centro para la Divulgación de Conocimiento Económico). CEDICE’s director, Rocío Guijarra, was one of the principal executors of the 2002 coup d’etat against President Hugo Chávez, and Guijarra personally signed a decree installing a dictatorship in the country, which led to the coup’s overthrow by the people and loyal armed forces of Venezuela. The conference Sutton participated in, held from May 28-29 in Venezuela was attended by leaders of Latin America’s ultra-conservative movement, ranging from Bolivian ex president Jorge Quiroga, who has called for President Evo Morales of Bolivia’s overthrow on several occasions, Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa and his son Alvaro, both of whom have publicly expressed support for the coup against President Zelaya in Honduras, and numerous leaders of the Venezuelan opposition, the majority of whom are well known for their involvement in the April 2002 coup and subsequent destabilization attempts. The majority of those present at the CEDICE conference in May 2009, have publicly expressed support for the recent coup against President Zelaya.

But a more damning piece of evidence linking IRI to the Honduran coup, is a video clip posted on the institute’s website at The clip or podcast, features a slideshow presentation given by Susan Zelaya-Fenner, assistant program officer at IRI, on March 20, 2009, discussing the “good governance” program in Honduras. Curiously, at the beginning of the presentation, Zelaya-Fenner explains what she considers “a couple of interesting facts about Honduras.” These include, “Honduras is a very overlooked country in a small region. Honduras has had more military coups than years of independence, it has been said. However, parodoxically, more recently it has been called a pillar of stability in the region, even being called the U.S.S. Honduras, as it avoided all of the crisis that its neighbors went through during the civil wars in the 1980s.”

Important to note is that what Zelaya-Fenner refers to as “U.S.S. Honduras” and “avoid[ing] all of the crisis that its neighbords went through during the civil wars in the 1980s” was because the U.S. government, CIA and Pentagon utilized Honduras as the launching pad for the attacks on Honduras’ neighbors. U.S. Ambassador at the time, John Negroponte, and Colonel Oliver North, trained, funded and planned the paramilitary missions of the death squads that were used to assassinate, torture, persecute, disappear and neutralize tens of thousands of farmers and “suspected” leftists in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Zelaya-Fenner continues, “Thus, Honduras has been more recently stable, and it’s always been poor, which means that it’s below the radar, and gets little attention. The current president, Manuel Zelaya and his buddies, the leftists in the Latin American region have caused a lot of political destabilization recently in the country. He is a would-be emulator of Hugo Chavez and Hugo Chavez' social revolution. He has spent the better part of this administration trying to convince the Honduran people, who tend to be very practical and very 'center' that the Venezuelan route is the way to go. Zelaya's leftist leanings further exarcerbate an already troubled state. Corruption is rampant, crime is at all time highs. Drug trafficking and related violence have begun to spill over from Mexico. And there's a very real sense that the country is being purposefully destabilized from within, which is very new in recent Honduran history. Coups are thought to be so three decades ago until now (laughs, audience laughs), again.”

Did she really say that? Yes, you can hear it yourself on the podcast. Is it merely a coincidence that the coup against President Zelaya occured just three months after this presentation? State Department officials have admitted that they knew the coup was in the works for the past few months. Sub-secretary of State Thomas Shannon was in Honduras the week before the coup, apparently trying to broker some kind of deal with the coup planners to find another “solution” to the “problem”. Nevertheless, they continued funding via NED and USAID to those very same groups and military sectors involved in the coup. It is not a hidden fact that Washington was unhappy with President Zelaya’s alliances in the region, principally with countries such as Venezuela and Nicaragua. It is also public knowledge that President Zelaya was in the process of removing the U.S. military presence from the Soto Cano airbase, using a fund from the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA – Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua, St. Kitts, Antigua & Barbados and Venezuela) to convert the strategically important Pentagon base into a commercial airport.

IRI’s Zelaya-Fenner explains the strategic importance of Honduras in her presentation, "Why does Honduras matter? A lot of people ask this question, even Honduran historians and experts. Some might argue that it doesn't and globally it might be hard to counter. However, the country is strategic to regional stability and this is an election year in Honduras. It's a strategic time to help democrats with a small “d”, at a time when democracy is increasingly coming under attack in the region.”
There is no doubt that the coup against President Zelaya is an effort to undermine regional governments implementing alternative models to capitalism that challenge U.S. concepts of representative democracy as “the best model”. Countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, are building successful models based on participatory democracy that ensure economic and social justice, and prioritize collective social prosperity and human needs over market economics. These are the countries, together now with Honduras, that have been victims of NED, USAID, IRI and other agencies’ interventions to subvert their prospering democracies.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Stiglitz on corporate welfarism for the big banks

Stiglitz has no definition of socialism. He seems to see it as helping out ordinary individuals. No doubt it would but surely he should know as an economist that socialism is the socialisation of the means of production distribution and exchange through worker or some type of collective ownership and production on the basis of need rather than profit.
What some commentators are calling socialism with American characteristics is not socialism at all but a form of corporate welfare where costs are socialised and profits privatised. As some have put it, it is "socialism" for the rich.

© The Berkeley Electronic Press
The Economists’ Voice
Joseph E. Stiglitz

With all the talk of “green shoots” of economic recovery, America’sbanks are pushing back on efforts to regulate them. While politicians talk about their commitment to regulatory reform to prevent arecurrence of the crisis, this is one area where the devil really isin the details—and the banks will muster what muscle they have left toensure that they have ample room to continue as they have in the past.The old system worked well for the bankers (if not for theirshareholders), so why should they embrace change? Indeed, the effortsto rescue them devoted so little thought to the kind of post-crisisfinancial system we want that we will end up with a banking systemthat is less competitive, with the large banks that were too big tofail even larger.It has long been recognized that those of America’s banks that are toobig to fail are also too big to be managed. That is one reason thatthe performance of several of them has been so dismal. Becausegovernment provides deposit insurance, it plays a large role inrestructuring (unlike other sectors). Normally, when a bank fails, thegovernment engineers a financial restructuring; if it has to put inmoney, it, of course, gains a stake in the future. Officials know thatif they wait too long, zombie or near zombie banks—with little or nonet worth, but treated as if they were viable institutions—are likelyto “gamble on resurrection.” If they take big bets and win, they walkaway with the proceeds; if they fail, the government picks up the tab.This is not just theory; it is a lesson we learned, at great expense,during the Savings & Loan crisis of the 1980s. When the ATM machinesays, “insufficient funds,” the government doesn’t want this to meanthat the bank, rather than your account, is out of money, so itintervenes before the till is empty. In a financial restructuring,shareholders typically get wiped out, and bondholders become the newshareholders. Sometimes, the government must provide additional funds;sometimes it looks for a new investor to take over the failed bank.The Obama administration has, however, introduced a new concept: toobig to be financially restructured. The administration argues that allhell would break loose if we tried to play by the usual rules withthese big banks. Markets would panic. So, not only can’t we touch thebondholders, we can’t even touch the shareholders—even if most of theshares’ existing value merely reflects a bet on a government bailout.I think this judgment is wrong. I think the Obama administration hassuccumbed to political pressure and scare-mongering by the big banks.As a result, the administration has confused bailing out the bankersand their shareholders with bailing out the banks.Restructuring gives banks a chance for a new start: new potentialinvestors (whether in equity or debt instruments) will have moreconfidence, other banks will be more willing to lend to them, and theywill be more willing to lend to others. The bondholders will gain froman orderly restructuring, and if the value of the assets is trulygreater than the market (and outside analysts) believe, they willeventually reap the gains.But what is clear is that the Obama strategy’s current and futurecosts are very high—and so far, it has not achieved its limitedobjective of restarting lending. The taxpayer has had to pony upbillions, and has provided billions more in guarantees—bills that arelikely to come due in the future.Rewriting the rules of the market economy— in a way that has benefitedthose that have caused so much pain to the entire global economy—isworse than financially costly. Most Americans view it as grosslyunjust, especially after they saw the banks divert the billionsintended to enable them to revive lending to payments of outsizedbonuses and dividends. Tearing up the social contract is somethingthat should not be done lightly.But this new form of ersatz capitalism, in which losses are socializedand profits privatized, is doomed to failure. Incentives aredistorted. There is no market discipline. Thetoo-big-to-be-restructured banks know that they can gamble withimpunity—and, with the Federal Reserve making funds available atnear-zero interest rates, there are ample funds to do so.Some have called this new economic regime “socialism with Americancharacteristics.” But socialism is concerned about ordinaryindividuals. By contrast, the United States has provided little helpfor the millions of Americans who are losing their homes. Workers wholose their jobs receive only 39 weeks of limited unemploymentbenefits, and are then left on their own. And, when they lose theirjobs, most lose their health insurance, too.America has expanded its corporate safety net in unprecedented ways,from commercial banks to investment banks, then to insurance, and nowto automobiles, with no end in sight. In truth, this is not socialism,but an extension of long standing corporate welfarism. The rich andpowerful turn to the government to help them whenever they can, whileneedy individuals get little social protection.We need to break up the too-big-to-fail banks; there is no evidencethat these behemoths deliver societal benefits that are commensuratewith the costs they have imposed on others. And, if we don’t breakthem up, then we have to severely limit what they do. They can’t beallowed to do what they did in the past—gamble at others’ expenses.This raises another problem with America’s too-big-to-fail,too-big-to-be-restructured banks: they are too politically powerful.Their lobbying efforts worked well, first to deregulate, and then tohave taxpayers pay for the cleanup. Their hope is that it will workonce again to keep them free to do as they please, regardless of therisks for taxpayers and the economy. We cannot afford to let thathappen.

Joseph E. Stiglitz is a Professor of Economics at Columbia University,and a Nobel Laureate in economics. He chairs a Commission of Experts,appointed by the President of the U.N. General Assembly, on reforms ofthe international monetary and financial system. A new global reservecurrency system is discussed in his 2006 book, Making GlobalizationWork.

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